How to Travel from Tiger Leaping Gorge to Haba Snow Mountain and Baishuitai
Location: Northwest Yunnan, near Lijiang
Description: A difficult yet amazing trek in one of the world’s deepest and most marvelous gorges. It passes through some of the most naturally stunning and diverse landscapes China-if not the world-has to offer, making this once adventurous trek a popular choice for off-the-beaten track travellers. The trek passes in front of one of the highest peaks in Asia, Meili Snow Mt., and high above the deep crevasses of the Gorge, delighting every backpacker with truly awesome sights and great photos.
Access: Lijiang to Qiaotou or Daju
Starting: Qiaotou or Daju
Ending: Daju or Qiaotou or Haba Village
Daju-> Walnut Grove ( Woody )-> Tina’s -> Middle Rapids -> Halfway Guesthouse -> 28 Turns-> Nuoyu Village-> Qiaotou
Remarks: from Daju to Qiaotou is upstream, Qiaotou to Daju is downstream, you can make the trek in either direction.
Part I : Qiaotou <=> Halfway Guesthouse, 6-8 hours
Part II : HWG <=> Walnut Grove, 3-4 hours
Part III : Walnut Grove <=> Daju : 3-4 hours
This means that trekkers leaving from Qiaotou will probably have to spend the first night in HWGH while trekkers leaving from Daju will have the choice of Walnut Grove or HWG.
Qiaotou-> Nuoyu Village-> 28 Turns-> Halfway Guesthouse ->Middle Rapids -> Tina’s -> Walnut Grove ( Woody )-> Jiangbian-> Haba-> Sanba Village(Baishuitai)
Maps>> Tiger Leaping Gorge Trekking Map
The high path : long, strenuous & dangerous but amazing view : this is the “real” stuff. To find it from Qiaotou, walk 80m after the “entrance-fee short cut” or 200m after the entrance, take the large road on the left, pass a school sport yard, take the small path going up and follow the arrows of various colors.
The walk requires some previous trekking experience and good fitness. The path is sometimes slippery, sometimes very narrow (20cm), sometimes next to a ravine… It is OK under light rain but not more. In any case, check the conditions before going by asking at Backpacker’s Cafe in Qiaotou. If you stick to the path and follow the arrows (red, yellow, white or blue) and the shoes traces in the dust, you should not have any trouble finding your way.
The low path : relatively easy, flat and boring. You can really walk in good condition from Walnut Grove to Km 9 only : from Qiaotou to km 9 is the domain on the Chinese tourist cars and buses (the Chinese come to see the Tiger Leaping Rock at Km 10) and you will have to take a lift or bring a mask gas as the road is transformed into a big dust cloud.
Two places to start (for the high path)
Qiaotou : Buses from Lijiang to Zhongdian stop at Qiaotou, 7:30~15:00, 2hrs
Daju : Buses from Lijiang, 7:30~13:30, 3hours,
The popular section of trail begins at Qiaotou, two hours out of Lijiang. You can take a Hutiao / Zhongdian-bound bus from Lijiang, get off at Qiaotou(Y13-15), leave your bag at Backpackers’ Cafe(unless you plan to trek further to Baishuitai near Haba), then change to a local minibus to the entrance of the gorge.
The entry fee is currently Y50, although it can be easily avoided if one arrives before the office opens, or at some opportune moment when the guard is out (or in the confusion if you’re arriving with a number of other hikers).
Typically the hike is spread over two days, with a night spent at one of the many guest houses along the route, ending with a 40-60 minute bus-ride from Walnut Grove to Qiaotou (Y50-60 for a small van). More adventuresome types will continue to Baishuitai beyond.
D1 Qiaotou-> Nuoyu Village-> 28 Turns-> Halfway Guesthouse
Your hiking trip starts from Qiaotou, the 28 zigzaging turns will be a real stuff. The 26km takes about 6-8 hours. From the top of “28 turns” on the high path further uphill to a place of altitude above 3000m, you can have a view of the panorama of the entire Gorge. Check this at a Tea Horse or Guesthouse if you cannot figure it out yourself.
You will arrive at Halfway Guesthouse to finish today’s trekking. At an altitude of 2500m, you get a magnificent view over the Yangtze River below and the Yulong Mountain right in front of you. For the keen photographer this trek provides a great opportunity to capture nature’s best moments.
Halfway Guesthouse organizes two-day treks up Haba Snow Mountain with an overnight stay uphill at a point of altitude above 4000 meters. Sleeping bags and mats for the trek can be rented at the guesthouse. Successful trekkers are awarded “donkey shoes” as souvenirs and their names and contact information are recorded in the “donkey skin book” at the guesthouse. Similar treks can also be arranged at Five Fingers Mountain Guesthouse.
D2 Halfway Guesthouse ->Middle Rapids -> Tina’s -> Walnut Grove ( Woody )
Three roads lead to the Middle Rapids. One starts at the right of Woody No.2 (Y2 for “road crossing” fee), another starts near Teacher Zhang’s Guesthouse (Y5 “road crossing” fee), the third starts near Chateau Woody where you see a sign advertising Xia Yin Gu’s guide service. Once you enter, just go down and you won’t miss it! The scenery is the most spectacular in the entire Tiger Leaping Gorge.
To return, you may go back on the same road, or take a different one. Notice that on the third road close to the rapids there is a very dangerous section of a few dozen meters long called “Tiny Sky” (and you need to pay between Y2-5 depending on the condition to cross that). At the rapids itself, there are two places charging “road crossing” fees of 2Y each: one for a small bridge leading to the first road, the other for crossing the wooden plank to the Middle Tiger Leaping Rock. The visit takes between 3 and 5 hours.
- Beware of the touts hanging around various guesthouses on the low path (Walnut Grove included except at Sean’s Guesthouse): Offending these people may incur a harsh beating plus a demand for hefty money.
- It’s out of electricity sometimes in Walnut Grove, makes sure you have a flashlight.
- Gorge Village Hotel, Xia Gu Chun (0887 880 6246), opposite Backpacker’s Cafe, Dorm 10Y in 2/3 bed’s room, Dble 25, Dble with bath 120Y / Restaurant
- Jade Dragon Hotel “Lotus Hotel” (0887 8806 196), on the right from Bus Station, Dorm 12/15Y in 5/3 bed’s room, Dble with bath 160Y / Restaurant
On the high path (kilometers from Qiaotou):
- Naxi Family Guesthouse, 6km, Nuo Yu Village, 1.5-2 hours from Qiaotou, 5-8 hours from Walnut Grove / Dorm Y10 / Basic / Hot water / Restaurant
- Old Horse Guesthouse,6.5km on a separate path, Nuo Yu Village, 40min walking up from low path at km 6.5, 1.5-2 hours from Qiaotou, 5-8 hours from Walnut Grove / Dorm Y10/ Basic
- Tea Horse Trade Guesthouse and Peace Gorge Guesthouse, both at 12km, Ya Cha Corner, 5min between the two, 1 hour walking up from low path at 11km, 3-6 hours from Qiaotou, 3-5 hours from Walnut Grove / Dorm Y10 / Basic / Hot water / Restaurant
- Halfway Guesthouse, 17km, Ben Di Wan Village, 1 hour walking up from low path at km 14, 4-8 hours from Qiaotou, 2-4 hours from Walnut Grove / Dorm 10Y,12Y or 15Y in 1,2,3 or 4 bed’s rooms / Basic but what a view (check the toilets…) / Hot water /Restaurant
- Five Fingers Mountain Guesthouse, 18km, Ben Di Wan Village, 4-8 hours from Qiaotou, 2-3.5 hours from Walnut Grove / Dorm Y10/bed, Hot water / Restaurant . From here it is 3.6 km (2 hours) to Tina’s Guesthouse on the low path
On the low path (kilometers from Qiaotou):
- Woody No.2 (Zhongxia Meijing Shanzhuang), 18km / Dorm 10Y per bed / Basic / Hot water / Restaurant
- Teacher Zhang’s Guesthouse, 18.5km / Dorm 10Y per bed / Basic / Hot water / Restaurant
- Tina’s Guesthouse, 20km, in front of the path going up to the high path, 45mn from Walnut Grove / Dorm 10Y per bed / Basic / Hot water / Restaurant / If you are walking the low path to Qiaotou, take the shortcut just before the Guesthouse to avoid 1.5km of turning road.
- Midgorge Guesthouse, the former Ya Cha Hotel, now at 21km / Dorm 10Y per bed / Basic / Hot water / Restaurant
At Walnut Grove (23km from Qiaotou):
- Chateau Woody, the first one from Daju / Great view from the clean room for 10Y or 15Y per bed in 1, 2 or 3 bed’s room / Hot water in the evening / Clean Toilets / Restaurant
- Sean’s Guesthouse “Spring Guesthouse”, the first one from Qiaotou / Dorm 15 in 8 or 12 bed’s rooms / Dorm 20 in Dble / 42 big beds / Hot water / Restaurant
- Snowflake Hotel or Tiger Leaping Gorge Hotel have cheap beds.
D3 Walnut Grove -> Haba Village
An adventurous add-on to the gorge trek is to continue north all the way to Haba village and the limestone terraces of Baishuitai, making it a four-day trek from Qiaotou. From here you will travel on to Zhongdian.
From Walnut Grove to Haba via Jiangbian, it’s about 30km and much of it is uphill, which takes 7-8 hours, more difficult than the high trail of the Tiger Leaping Gorge. After a long ascent, you will reach the village of Haba for the night. A few hundred residents in Haba, many of them are Muslim, and a couple of guesthouses tucked into a valley that spills down a hillside with mountains rising on three sides make up Haba. The Haba Snow Mountain Inn, a typical rural Yunnan guesthouse – a family farm with a couple of rooms converted to guesthouse use.
D4 Haba Village to Baishuitai
A brief steep ascent in the beginning and a couple of steep descents are the only diversions from what is otherwise largely a flat trek and certainly much easier than the Walnut Grove to Haba portion.
Baishuitai (White Water Terrace), believed to be the birthplace of Naxi Dongba culture, is not as nice as Haba. A cluster of buildings around the base of the terraces themselves form the de-facto town of Baishuitai, which falls under the denomination of Sanba town. The main attraction is the limestone terraces, though interesting to see and worth the Y30 of admission. Basic accommodation is available in the town for Y10/bed. Off the main road most of the local dwellings are in the Naxi style and feature the twin-fish motif.
For moving on, the first bus to Zhongdian departs at 8:30AM, while others pass through throughout the day – either heading north to Zhongdian or south to Haba, Jiangbian, Tiger Leaping Gorge or Lijiang. On your ride to Zhongdian (4 hours), you can get off at the turn-off to Bita Lake, 25km east of Zhongdian and hike there.
- Wear light hiking boots with ankle support.
- There is a risk of landslides in bad weather, though no one would like to step out of the door on a rainy day, just in case the weather changes when you are on route. After all, it’s a 2-4 days trek.
- As with any touristy area, there are endless efforts of varying legitimacy to help you part with your RMB along the route. At various intervals, old women, young girls and sundry others will demand small fees for using optional parts of the path. Some, such as the decent to the river below Tina’s guest house, are particularly annoying, as you’ll be asked for a few RMB more at what seems like every step of the way, with an elaborate story to explain the cost. Also be aware that some guest houses may try to mislead you about your hiking options, for example Tina’s guest house has been known to insist that while you may descend to the river below, you must hike back up, and may not continue along the river to Walnut Grove–one of the most spectacular sections of the trail.